News / Africa

Mugabe's Election Rush Quashes Zimbabwe Reform Hopes

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe jokes with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Harare, May 22, 2013.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe jokes with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Harare, May 22, 2013.
Reuters
Just after Zimbabwe's top court told President Robert Mugabe to hold elections before the end of July, he appeared in a documentary combining domestic campaign mode with a diplomatic charm offensive.
 
In the fly-on-the-wall show on South African television the 89-year-old opened up on the armed struggle for independence from Britain and making love to his 47-year-old wife.
 
He also revealed he wanted to add to his 33 years at the helm of the poor, land-locked southern African nation.
 
The footage provided a rare glimpse of Mugabe's human side, surrounded by his family, and turned heads in Zimbabwe's powerful neighbor, which is likely to be a major funder of an election and also a judge of its quality.
 
But Africa's oldest head of state skirted around the reforms to the army, police and media that he is under pressure to carry out to ensure a peaceful and credible vote.
 
With the court giving him less than 60 days to call the election, there would be little time — even if he wanted to — to make any meaningful changes to state institutions that remain firmly in his camp.
 
"My people still need me and when people need you to lead them, it is not time, sir — it doesn't matter how old you are — to say goodbye," he told South African interviewer Dali Tambo in the documentary, aired on Sunday but shot several weeks earlier.
 
Five years after the disputed and violent elections that spawned a fractious coalition with his main adversary, Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's neighbors are desperate to avoid a rerun of a poll that sparked an exodus of opposition supporters.
 
The regional 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) has called a summit this weekend to help Harare raise the estimated $132 million needed for the election, and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it will use the opportunity to tackle Mugabe on the issue of reforms.
 
But with the economy bouncing back since 2008 from hyperinflation and a 40 percent economic contraction over the previous eight years, there is every chance that, even in a fair fight, Mugabe's ZANU-PF party might win.
 
Although there are no formal opinion polls, surveys in the last year by Freedom House, a U.S. political think tank, and African research group Afro-Barometer have given Mugabe a narrow lead over Tsvangirai, who has suffered hits to his personal and professional reputation since entering government.
 
"Mugabe's position is informed by his belief that he will win the elections and that ZANU-PF has recovered enough after 2008 to survive Morgan Tsvangirai," said Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at Harare's University of Zimbabwe.
 
"It is a gamble but we are in an environment in which you cannot rule out ZANU-PF."
 
The MDC disputes the findings of unfavorable voter surveys, saying Zimbabweans are still too afraid to express themselves freely after the 2008 bloodshed, and remains confident of victory.
 
Fig-leaf reform

In March, Zimbabwe's 13 million people overwhelmingly approved a new constitution to replace the one forged in the dying days of British colonial rule in 1979.
 
The new charter lays the foundations for a more balanced political playing field by trimming the powers of the president and enshrining notions such as freedom of the media.
 
But the MDC argues that the vote can only be truly fair if broadcast media are opened up to all parties, new voters are allowed to register freely and the army and police keep out of politics.
 
The court ruling means there is now precious little time to drive through real change.
 
This is especially true of the army, whose leaders are open in their contempt for Tsvangirai, a former union leader who did not play a prominent role in the war against the white-minority government that ran what was then Rhodesia until 1980.
 
The military and police have also been accused of vote rigging and intimidation, leading to Western sanctions against Mugabe and senior ZANU-PF apparatchiks.
 
As such, analysts fear any reforms will amount to little more than fig-leaves — army commanders being asked to issue statements affirming their neutrality and regulators licensing private broadcasters just before the polls.
 
"We might go through some rituals but I don't see anything changing much on the ground," said Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional law professor and critic of both Tsvangirai and Mugabe.
 
"I am sure Mugabe will concede some ground on some of the issues in deference to SADC and to retain the regional support he needs for political legitimacy."

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid